Orthodox Observer - December 1996

Thanksgiving Encyclical

We Have Much for Which to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving, 1996

Reverend Fathers, Parish Council Members, and
All of the Faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America,

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

At this time of year, our nation comes together to celebrate a day of thanksgiving. In the act of gathering with our families and friends, we somehow connect with other families, and even strangers, across this country in order to proclaim as one American family our thanks to God for the gifts He has given to us. And so, what began over 350 years ago in an American colony as a small, local celebration of thanks has appropriately become the national holiday we call Thanksgiving.

We, as Greek Orthodox Christians, heartily embrace this Thanksgiving celebration. We do so because we know there is much for which to give thanks. Indeed, even though we hear every day in the media about crime and violence, disease and war, racism and terrorism, we know that God "heals all our diseases" (Ps. 103:3); that He is "near to those who have a broken heart" (Ps. 34:18); that "His mercy endures forever" (Ps. 136:1); that His "love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8); that He "is a God of justice" (Is. 30:18); that "He shall judge the world in righteousness" (Ps. 9:8); that He "fills the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps. 107:9); and that He "has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11).

And yet, there is one other reason why we embrace this celebration. We do so because the Thanksgiving holiday serves to remind us as a nation of the particular blessings that we, as Americans, have come to enjoy. These blessings include freedom, democracy, and an abundance of the fruits of the earth. However, because there are still in our midst people who suffer from hunger and homelessness, let us remember that we must share our material blessings with those less fortunate than ourselves, because it is through us that God "gives food to the hungry" (Ps. 146:7) and is "a shelter for His people" (Joel 3:16).

For all of our blessings —the spiritual and the material— I exhort you to give thanks to our great God, on this Thanksgiving Day and always, and to say with the Psalmist: "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, 0 Most High; to declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night..." (Ps. 92:1-2).

With paternal blessings,

[signed: † Archbishop Spyridon]

Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

[ Orthodox Observer, Vol. 61 - No. 1121, December 1996, p. 3 ]